State of the Coast Conference convenes major restoration and protection players
Brian Jackson, Environmental Defense Fund
Scientists, engineers, government and industry representatives, non-governmental organizations and concerned citizens convened June 8-10 at an annual conference to discuss the "State of the Coast." This year’s event took on a greater sense of urgency as oil continues to gush from the Deepwater Horizon oil well into the Gulf of Mexico and onto Louisiana shores.
"With so much work being done and so many people and institutions involved in restoration, it's important to bring everyone together to share ideas," said Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana's Executive Director Steven Peyronnin. "I think this conference reinvigorates the work we are all doing."
More than 650 people attended the conference, which provided a forum to discuss and advance the plans and implementation of restoring Louisiana wetlands. Attendees heard from several speakers and panelists, including the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley, President of the National Wildlife Federation Larry Schweiger and the Deputy Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Dr. Larry Robinson.
The conference was sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, and other partners.
Old River structures could help keep oil away from marshes
David J. Ringer, National Audubon Society
“Divert water from the Atchafalaya River into the Mississippi River to prolong the Mississippi's ability to keep BP oil out of Louisiana's marshes,” said Audubon coastal scientist Dr. Paul Kemp.
Kemp and other scientists submitted a memo to theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) June 9 proposing to modify the operation of the Old River Control Structuresby sending at least 80 percent of the combined flow of the Mississippi and Red rivers down the main stem of the Mississippi. The structures currently maintain an "autopilot" 70 percent-30 percent split between the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, with the majority of the water going down the Mississippi.
Kemp and other scientists are confident that the high spring discharge through May helped keep oil out of sensitive coastal marshes, but they warn that as the river drops through June, more oil will be able to penetrate further into the marshes.
"This is an example of being nimble to deal with a real threat. It has good science behind it," Kemp told Greenwire on June 11. Since then, Kemp has met with officials from the White House, the state of Louisiana and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the proposal, which officials are still considering. Meanwhile, river levels continue to drop.
"Long-term recovery for the Gulf Coast region depends on Mississippi River management," said Kemp. "We have an opportunity right now to put the river to work for us, and these principles and lessons must be a part of our long-term response as well. We can't save the coast without the river."
Photo Credit: National Audubon Society
Louisiana Volunteer Efforts and Opportunities
David J. Ringer, National Audubon Society
Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation
Within days of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, concerned citizens across the Gulf Coast and the nation began signing up with environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to offer their support and help. Below is an overview of what efforts several groups are coordinating, what they’ve accomplished and how you can help.
In our next issue, we'll the cover the volunteer efforts of several local groups: Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and the Barataria Terrebonne National Estuary Program.
National Audubon Society
National Audubon Society has put hundreds of volunteers to work since the beginning of May, filling a variety of roles including wildlife transport facilitation and data collection for a bird survey and science monitoring. “I flag down the boats that have birds,” reports Audubon volunteer Jennifer Hanna. “They pull up, hand me the crates, and I make sure that they have the coordinates of where they found the birds and the name of whoever captured them.”
"National Audubon Society has really stepped up to coordinate volunteers for different areas of the state," said U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee Beth Pattinson, who's stationed at the Unified Command center in Houma, La. ”What a wonderful group of committed, concerned and good-hearted people.”
Nearly 30,000 people from across the United States have registered as volunteers with Audubon. Volunteers away from the Gulf Coast region are being asked to conduct energy audits of their homes and analyze other lifestyle choices, volunteer to protect local habitat for birds that also migrate through the Gulf Coast region, and advocate for policy changes that will restore the Gulf Coast and result in a cleaner, safer future for the region and the nation.
To register with Audubon, please visit http://www.audubonaction.org/HowToHelp.
National Wildlife Federation
National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has had nearly 3,000 birders, hunters and anglers sign up to join it’s volunteer wildlife surveillance network, which tracks and reports the effects of the oil spill on wildlife and the natural ecosystems in the region. Volunteer teams are inspecting critical wildlife and ecological zones along the Gulf coast daily, reporting injured wildlife for rescue and submitting their findings data so that it can be made available to federal agencies.
“Monitoring the impact of the BP oil spill on local wildlife is critical to assessing what rescue and restoration tactics need to be employed, now and in the future,” said NWF's Coastal Louisiana Organizer Amanda Moore.
“We are the search in search and rescue,” said NWF's Vice President of Education and Training Kevin Coyle. “Our teams of volunteers are providing the eyes and ears we need on the ground to ring the alarm, hopefully before it’s too late.”
If you want to volunteer, please sign up at www.nwf.org/oilspillvolunteer. If you can’t volunteer, but would like to donate supplies to the wildlife surveillance effort, please review our list of needed supplies.
Photo credits in order of placement: Melanie Driscoll of National Audubon Society; National Wildlife Federation
Resource: Daily Fish and Wildlife Collection Report
The Unified Area Command for the BP Oil Disaster posts daily reports on the number of fish and wildlife collected, using data compiled by field staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, rehabilitation centers and other authorized sources operating within the impact area.
The reports document oiled or dead wildlife captured or collected in the impact area, though it is not a comlete record of all harmed fish and wildlife.
“Once found or captured, collected wildlife are given an identifying number that will follow it throughout the evaluation process,” according to the Unified Area Command’s website. “Collected wildlife are given an initial examination to search for broken bones, external oil or other injuries. As needed, this may be followed by a more thorough examination to search for less obvious injuries, such as oil in the mouth, throat or eyes."
Learn more about the report online.
Photo Credit: Yuki Kokubo, Environmental Defense Fund